Boris Johnson to travel to UAE as it names Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as new president
The UK's prime minister is heading to the United Arab Emirates to pay his respects after the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, as his half-brother was elected the country's new president.
Boris Johnson issued a statement yesterday following the announcement of the death of Sheikh Khalifa, who was ruler of Abu Dhabi, as well as President of the UAE.
Mr Johnson said: "He was a wise and respected leader who will be missed enormously. Through his work as President and Sheikh he has made a personal contribution to regional stability and conservation which will long be remembered.
"I know that the long and deep ties, which unite our countries, will continue and through our cooperation and friendship, we can ensure peace, prosperity and justice in the world.
"I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the people of the United Arab Emirates."
Downing Street said the prime minister's visit will also aim to reinforce the close bond between the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.
The UK has deep relations with the UAE, with the UK having protected what was then known as the Trucial States for decades before withdrawing in the early 1970s, and now operates a UK/UAE taskforce, which includes Mr Johnson, that helps the two countries work together on investment, policy, defence, consular and other issues.
Rulers of the nation's seven sheikhdoms, including Dubai, backed Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed unanimously in a vote, according to the state-run WAM news agency.
Following the vote, Dubai's prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, tweeted: "We congratulate him and we pledge allegiance to him, and our people pledge allegiance to him.
"The whole country is led by him to take it on the paths of glory and honour, God willing."
Often referred to as MBZ, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, 61, was named the most powerful Arab leader and one of the most powerful men on Earth by the New York Times in 2019.
He had been serving as the UAE's de facto president since a stroke in 2014 saw his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa disappear from public view.
Under his leadership, the UAE took on a more military-focused approach in the region, joining Saudi Arabia in their years-long war in Yemen.
He also featured in Time Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential People of 2019.
Following his brother's death, Sheikh Mohammed said: "The UAE has lost its righteous son and leader of the 'empowerment phase' and guardian of its blessed journey."
Sheikh Mohammed established UAE as a global military superpower
The new ruler graduated from Britain's Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1979.
He has since gone on to command one of the most high-tech armies in the Gulf region.
Along with its oil wealth and business hub status, Sheikh Mohammed has established the UAE as a global military superpower.
During this time, his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa suffered bouts of illness.
The Al Nahyan family is believed to have a fortune of £150bn.
The UAE is currently observing a three-day mourning period, which will see businesses shut across the country and performances halted in Sheikh Khalifa's honour.
Electronic billboards all showed the late sheikh's image in Dubai last night as flags flew at half-mast.